Letter by Turlock Mayor John Lazar
Turlock had many successes in 2011, in spite of a challenging economy and a state government and legislature bent on taking money away from local government.
Though the diligent work of our city staff and improving local economy, we were able to cut expenses and maximize revenue to reduce our projected 2010-11 budget deficit by $2.5 million. We have already seen stabilization and a slight increase in our local sales tax revenue, as well as some stabilization in property values. Last year, we projected we would have to use $2.2 million in reserves to balance the general fund budget. However, through significant employee concessions and a very close watch on spending, we actually balanced the books in 2010-11.
Other successes include an overall decrease in crime in our community. Our public safety staff continues to be effective making our city one of the safest in Stanislaus County.
2011 will be remembered as the year that Turlock started to look into regional solutions for our long-term water and wastewater needs. The City entered into a Joint Powers Authority with the Cities of Modesto and Ceres to continue to investigate the feasibility of using water from the Tuolumne River as a long-term and reliable source of water for the City’s future needs. We have received $44 million in low-interest loans from the State of California to complete two significant wastewater infrastructure projects. These loans will save our ratepayers more than $30 million in interest payments over 20 years compared to conventional municipal bond financing.
The Carnegie Arts facility recently opened and transformed a scorched skeleton to a beautiful arts and community center. This typifies our community’s resilience and pride. The new public safety facility is under construction which will not only provide police and fire a new home, but enhance our downtown corridors as well.
Turlock was also able to secure federal dollars for a new transit center in the heart of our city. This hub will not only streamline bus services but make it more desirable to use mass transit in Turlock.
Another economic triumph for Turlock has been the announced purchase and development of 80 acres in the Turlock Business Park by Blue Diamond Growers. The investment our city government made in WISP is beginning to bring dividend and will help create real jobs for our residents and within our region. Economic development will play a big part of 2011. This year, the city council created the Business Partnership Incentive Program, with the support and assistance of the Chamber of Commerce. So far eight small businesses have used this program to create and enhance business in Turlock. This has added 26 new jobs to our community.
Our staff is also facilitating applications for several new retail businesses in our city, including the Olive Garden. We hope to announce others early next year.
And economic development cannot be complete without mentioning the success of our Downtown Farmers’ Market. Completing its second year, local growers transform the intersection of West Main Street and Broadway into a Friday destination!
Finally, our City Council continues to work with the Turlock City Planning Commission and our community in moving forward an updated General Plan for our community to embrace. Preserving agriculture, while promoting reasonable and sustainable growth for our city has been Turlock’s tradition. We are blessed to have California State University, Stanislaus within our city and Turlock’s quality of life can be attributed to this proud and reputable institution anchored in North Turlock.
Turlock businesses and families have had many challenges, as did our city government over the past year. It is my firm belief that as we enter 2012 a slow but recognizable improvement in the overall economy will be realized. We continue to "do it right" in Turlock and is my sincere wish for 2012 that Turlock residents realize a prosperous and happy new year!